What have I been up to? January

Welcome, all! I usually update friends and followers on what I’ve been reading/watching in the month. Hope you find something new you can explore!

This is the general grading system I use for my personal enjoyment lists. This usually has nothing to do with whether or not it’s recognized as a masterpiece. It reflects MY experiences. So, as such, it’s biased. 🙂

  1. No redeeming qualities whatsoever visually, aesthetically, or as a story.
  2. So boring I could barely pay attention.
  3. I had a headache but somehow made it through.
  4. I could make fun of it. . . because of how bad it is.
  5. It’s not good, it’s not bad. It’s just blah.
  6. There were various interesting aspects but nothing to really gush about.
  7. A solid movie. Good characters, plot, and visuals. However, not amazing.
  8. I genuinely enjoyed watching/reading it. I could see it again with friends.
  9. A great experience! AS a film it is visually stunning and has an incredible story I could go back to multiple times. As a book, I could do the same.
  10. Near Perfect (nothing is perfect. 🙂 ) It has become one of my favorites. I could also write entire articles on it.

Belle (2021) 8/10

Suzu is a shy, everyday high school student living in a rural village. For years, she has only been a shadow of herself. But when she enters “U”, a massive virtual world, she escapes into her online persona as Belle, a gorgeous and globally-beloved singer. One day, her concert is interrupted by a monstrous creature chased by vigilantes. As their hunt escalates, Suzu embarks on an emotional and epic quest to uncover the identity of this mysterious “beast” and to discover her true self in a world where you can be anyone.

Myanimelist Synopsis

This is the one movie I’ve seen recently I can honestly say took me absolutely by surprise. I’m not the BIGGEST fan of director Mamoru Hosoda, but I understand why so many people love films he’s directed like Summer Wars and Wolf Children.

What is most surprising is how much I connected to this movie. I understand what it’s like to be shut off from music because of trauma. I also thought its message can seem somewhat garbled if one thinks it’s a romance. It’s not really.

The feeling I had while watching it in theaters was WONDER. The visuals are breathtaking, both in the digital and real world. Some plot elements could probably be fine-tuned, but I didn’t really think about that in the movie theater. I just enjoyed how beautiful it looked at sounded.

The highlight of the whole film was definitely the musical numbers performed by Kylie McNeill. I listened to the Japanese and English versions of the songs, and McNeill has a voice I admire more.

If you haven’t seen this movie, I would give it a look especially if you are a fan of the director. If he’s anything, he’s consistent when it comes to the quality of animation and story building.

The Mitchell’s vs the Machine, (2020) 7/10

A quirky, dysfunctional family’s road trip is upended when they find themselves in the middle of the robot apocalypse and suddenly become humanity’s unlikeliest last hope.

IMBD Synopsis

I was looking forward to seeing this movie for quite a while but didn’t take the time to sit down and enjoy it. The fault is mine. I got distracted by anime.

As far as my personal enjoyment goes, it was a fairly pleasant experience. The animation was unique, and the characters had enough personality to fill the ocean. What it came down to for me was. . . it’s just not a movie I would go back to on my own. Its style is too random, kind of like a modern Impressionist painting.

It has the wrong. . . energy. Plus I didn’t understand the villain all that much or why so many people got captured so fast. I am also not that into technology either, beyond what I watch, read, and research sometimes.

I did appreciate how it centered on families and rebuilding relationships. If you like quirky humor and off-the-beaten-track animation definitely give this one a go!

Amphibia, (2019-?) 8/10

inspired by creator and executive producer Matt Braly’s heritage, family and childhood trips to Bangkok, Thailand, Disney’s animated series chronicles the adventures of independent and fearless teen Anne Boonchuy after she is magically transported to a rural marshland full of frog people. There, Anne meets the excitable young frog Sprig Plantar; unpredictable pollywog Polly Plantar, the youngest member of the Plantar family; and overprotective and traditional grandfather Hop Pop. Stuck in this fantastical world of amphibians, Anne quickly bonds with the adventurous Sprig and discovers the true meaning of friendship.

Google Synopsis

This is a fun show I got into a few years back. While stuck inside because of COVID, I finally buckled down to finish the second and third seasons. While I had my doubts, Matt Braly and his team really outdid themselves for this show.

I like how it honors his cultural heritage, as they explore Anne’s family from Thailand. I also appreciated how her parents weren’t put on the sidelines as Anne faced problems. They became active participants in the story.

The characters, both in Amphibia and on earth, are great and the animation is stellar, to say the least. If you are looking for some imaginative storytelling mixed with timeless adventure this is the show for you!

My Hero Academia, (2016-?), 8/10

The appearance of “quirks,” newly discovered super powers, has been steadily increasing over the years, with 80 percent of humanity possessing various abilities from manipulation of elements to shapeshifting. This leaves the remainder of the world completely powerless, and Izuku Midoriya is one such individual.

Since he was a child, the ambitious middle schooler has wanted nothing more than to be a hero. Izuku’s unfair fate leaves him admiring heroes and taking notes on them whenever he can. But it seems that his persistence has borne some fruit: Izuku meets the number one hero and his personal idol, All Might. All Might’s quirk is a unique ability that can be inherited, and he has chosen Izuku to be his successor!

Enduring many months of grueling training, Izuku enrolls in UA High, a prestigious high school famous for its excellent hero training program, and this year’s freshmen look especially promising. With his bizarre but talented classmates and the looming threat of a villainous organization, Izuku will soon learn what it really means to be a hero.

Myanimelist Synopsis

I’ve started My Hero Academia twice now and both times I’ve liked its overall feeling. Deku is a great character, and I like All Might. My problem is very simple. I’m not in the mood to watch it right now. My guess is I would have to watch it with friends to REALLY buckle down and finish it.

From the first twenty or so episodes I have a feeling its going to be a fun ride whenever I have the mindset to see it.

For now, the animation is superb, the characters interesting (for the most part), and the message hopeful.

Hunter X Hunter, (2011-2014), 8/10

Hunter x Hunter is set in a world where Hunters exist to perform all manner of dangerous tasks like capturing criminals and bravely searching for lost treasures in uncharted territories. Twelve-year-old Gon Freecss is determined to become the best Hunter possible in hopes of finding his father, who was a Hunter himself and had long ago abandoned his young son. However, Gon soon realizes the path to achieving his goals is far more challenging than he could have ever imagined.

Along the way to becoming an official Hunter, Gon befriends the lively doctor-in-training Leorio, vengeful Kurapika, and rebellious ex-assassin Killua. To attain their own goals and desires, together the four of them take the Hunter Exam, notorious for its low success rate and high probability of death. Throughout their journey, Gon and his friends embark on an adventure that puts them through many hardships and struggles. They will meet a plethora of monsters, creatures, and characters—all while learning what being a Hunter truly means.

Myanimelist Synopsis

Back when this series first came out, I watched it with my brother. At the time I thought it was a great show, but didn’t finish it because. . . well, it wasn’t complete yet. There were only maybe 50 episodes out.

So I waited and forgot about it for a while. Rewatching the first two seasons I knew I needed to watch it in chunks. It has 148 episodes and as you know I have a low attention span.

So far, it has fairly good animation and engaging characters. For me, the show’s highlights are scenes between Hisoka and Gon, meaning their fighting scenes. Not because I’m creepy, but because Hisoka is such an interesting villain. He’s a creep but he owns EVERY scene he’s in.

I definitely recommend this show to lovers of action anime but warn you it is not for the faint of heart. There are some heavy themes and plot twists. It seems happy go lucky, but it is not so all the time.

Yu Yu Hakusho: Ghost Files, (1992-1995), 10/10

One fateful day, Yuusuke Urameshi, a 14-year-old delinquent with a dim future, gets a miraculous chance to turn it all around when he throws himself in front of a moving car to save a young boy. His ultimate sacrifice is so out of character that the authorities of the spirit realm are not yet prepared to let him pass on. Koenma, heir to the throne of the spirit realm, offers Yuusuke an opportunity to regain his life through completion of a series of tasks. With the guidance of the death god Botan, he is to thwart evil presences on Earth as a Spirit Detective.

To help him on his venture, Yuusuke enlists ex-rival Kazuma Kuwabara, and two demons, Hiei and Kurama, who have criminal pasts. Together, they train and battle against enemies who would threaten humanity’s very existence.

Myanimelist Synopsis

I’m SOOOOOO surprised I liked this show. I usually don’t go for crime-fighting shows. It’s mostly because they are too long for me. I have a hard time focusing if shows take too long to get to the point. (I’m talking about YOU One Piece!) Plus I thought the animation would be sub-par compared to shows I’d been watching recently like Jujutsu Kaisen and Demon Slayer.

I was wrong on all counts. I love the characters, the setting, the animation, and the storyline. Yuusuke, Kurama, and Kuwabara have especially caught my attention as I’ve watched. Sure there are some cheesy parts but I honestly don’t care.

Big themes for the show include friendship, keeping promises, committing one’s self fully to worthwhile things, believing in the good in humanity, etc.

To really talk about EVERYTHING I’ll need to do a legitimate review. Let’s just say I think it’s absolutely fantastic and a worthwhile watch for anyone who loves Shounen anime shows.

Natsume’s Book of Friends, (2003-?) 10/10

Takashi Natsume is a 15-year-old boy who wants nothing more but to live a normal life like everyone else. But to his dismay, like his deceased grandmother, Reiko, he possesses the ability to see “youkai,” or spirits. Natsume eventually discovers that Reiko had bequeathed to him a book of contracts in which she had bound youkai—the “Book of Friends.” However, without Reiko ever calling upon the spirits’ names, they have been left in a confined state. Now, these spirits continuously pursue Natsume in the hopes of having their contracts dissolved for freedom.

While there may be gentle, harmless spirits which come to Natsume for help, there are also malicious, hostile spirits that threaten him. This is where Madara steps in, a spirit disguised as a rotund cat. Commonly referred to as Nyanko-sensei by Natsume, Madara is a self-proclaimed bodyguard who has his own motives for accompanying Natsume.

Natsume Yuujinchou is a supernatural slice-of-life series about a boy who struggles to live a normal life while balancing the spirit and human worlds and acquiring important life lessons along the way.

Myanimelist Synopsis

If you know me personally or read my blog posts regularly, you know how much I love this manga and its anime adaption. I read it every year or so at night as a way to relax and go to sleep. Each chapter is episodic, so if you can’t find one of the earlier volumes, there isn’t a big plot gap.

I like how Natsume’s book of Friends treats varied types of relationships. They aren’t always romantic, but each feels relevant. Some stories are heartbreaking. Others are sweet.

I also read it to remind myself of my goal to be a kinder person, open to helping others who need me.

If you like stories with Japanese spirits and Folklore this would be a good series for you.

The Hourglass Door, (2009) 8/10

His past. Her future. Can love bring them together in time?
Abby’s senior year of high school is textbook perfect, until she meets Dante Alexander, a foreign-exchange student from Italy. Time behaves differently when they are together – too fast or slow or seeming to stop. 

When the band Zero Hour performs at the local hangout, they have a bizarre influence over their audience, and Abby’s best friend, Valerie, is caught in their snare. Dante helped Leonardo Da Vinci build a time machine, then was sent 500+ years into the future as punishment when falsely accused of being a traitor. As past and present collide, Abby learns she holds a special power over time itself.

Goodreads Synopsis

I read this book for the first time ten or so years ago. As far as teenage romance novels go, it was a refreshing re-read! There was no toxic relationship dynamic between Abby and Dante, the main characters. This may not seem like a big deal. . . unless you’ve read most romance novels (graphic or written) in the last ten years.

Dante is honest with Abby and the story is well-paced, transitioning between their everyday lives with the fantastic cleanly. Though it’s not my favorite book in the world, I often recommend it to anyone looking for historically based romances.

What’s fun about this one is there is a handsome Italian and compelling scientific concepts like time travel interwoven with classic literature! Good for Bibliophiles and those who like to see obscure concepts like the golden spiral intelligently placed in the story.

Give it a look if you need a sweet romance kick!

Abarat Trilogy, (2002-2011) 10/10

Candy lives in Chickentown USA: the most boring place in the world, her heart bursting for some clue as to what her future may hold. She is soon to find out: swept out of our world by a giant wave, she finds herself in another place entirely…

The Abarat: a vast archipelago where every island is a different hour of the day, from the sunlit wonders of Three in the Afternoon, where dragons roam, to the dark terrors of the island of Midnight, ruled by Christopher Carrion.

Candy has a place in this extraordinary world: she has been brought here to help save the Abarat from the dark forces that are stirring at its heart. Forces older than time itself, and more evil than anything Candy has ever encountered.

Goodreads Synopsis

Though it took up to 24 hours, I finally finished listening to all the Abarat books on audio! Usually, I enjoy reading physical copies of the books because of Clive Barker’s beautiful artwork. However, it was a nice change of pace for me to listen to Richard Ferrone reading them to me.

If you have never read these books before, I would recommend finding the illustrated copies first then branching out to audiobooks.

Thank you as always for reading! I’m always open to new suggestions on what to read or watch.

What Have I Been Up To? December

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